Thursday, March 22, 2007

Leave those kids alone

In a random survey of 170 parents across the Saratoga Springs middle and high school parents, a solid 86 percent likened themselves to an ostrich with its head in the sand and don’t think their kids booze. An even greater number of these parents –89 percent –also happened to forget in its entirety, their adolescence and the teenage predilection for boozing. Shocking numbers were the recent poll of alcohol and substance abuse conducted by the Saratoga Partnership for Prevention amounted to anything more than a hill of beans.

Unfortunately, the survey, like many of its ilk, is remarkably misleading when taking into consideration the district as a whole. Although the article published Thursday in The Saratogian doesn’t bother with piddling details such as how many students were polled –there are roughly 3,700 teens attending the middle and high school –it does give us one detail: 170 parents filled out the anonymous questionnaire.

Even if every parent in the district was single, this means about 4 percent of them were used in the survey, which is hardly scientific by any standards. In other words, the survey is a good scare tactic to raise some ignorant eyebrows, but is just about useless as a barometer of the alcohol and drug rates in the district. And at least the hill of beans can be used for a nice chili con carne, something the aforementioned survey just doesn’t have in its capacity.

To form the hypothesis that alcohol and drugs aren't used among the student population is just sheer ignorance. But gauging how prevalent they are is something that is very tricky, if not impossible to do –especially using an anonymous survey. Perhaps the only true measure is studying the age and grade level of teens seeking treatment at alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers, such as the well-known Four Winds; or maybe by correlating the number of teenage alcohol and drug related arrests made in the city.

Then again, the survey itself seems almost as a plea from the partnership for prevention to justify its own existence. It’s not that this coalition of community leaders is ill-willed or misguided; just that their mission is one of herculean difficulty, when one considers the task of preventing alcohol use among later adolescents.

Drinking is something that is deeply ingrained in American Culture, as is binging and excess. These are elements that promulgated freely throughout the ages, including this modern one. Whether it’s on the silver screen with Bogart-esque character saddling up to the bar for a mid-afternoon cocktail or a bunch of bikini clad women bouncing around a beer bash on television, kids learn pretty damn quickly that getting hammered is both pleasurable and popular. And now that the drinking age is 21, it’s also the solid denominator of adulthood.

So even if kids are taught from the cradle to puberty that booze is bad and getting drunk is worse, there’s a good chance they’ll do it anyway once their later teen years set in. After all, these are the years they strive to be adults; growing facial hair, even if it looks ridiculous, wearing makeup even it looks out of place –taking a pull or five off dad’s vodka, just to feel a bit more adult. There’s no survey or prevention program that will stop that from happening.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it takes one giant step for parents. Understand that eventually, junior is going to go out for beers with the boys and make sure he understands fully the implications of that decision. And rather than preaching prevention, cultivate awareness; point to the effects and results of hard boozing. Ask them to realize their limits and to be aware in advance of the very precarious situations they can suddenly be thrust into when crossing those limits. It’s not foolproof, but it’s the only way until the nation as a whole takes a far-less puritanical –and hypocritical –approach to alcohol.


Blogger Don and Sher said...

I agree 100%, I taught the DARE program for 6 years when I was a cop, sorry to say this but it was childish bullshit. I saw many programs and seminars and parent meetings it was ridiculous. Communities came up with programs to curb drugs and alcohol but those disappeared within a year. Nothing changed. When I was young the legal age was 18 and now it is 21 did it make a difference of course not.
Kids see the parents drink, they see the commercials, the TV programs and yada, yada, yada.
SADD, MADD,DARE or whatever, Good Luck

7:13 PM  

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